Make Your Mark Book

Make Your Mark Book available now! Buy on Amazon CLICK HERE! 

Jose Castillo author of Make Your Mark in front of Spark Plaza Coworking space

Make Your Mark: the story of an artist, a little girl, and a wall

Buy locally at Reclaimed Inspired Goods in Johnson City TN.


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021) – Johnson City entrepreneur Jose Castillo has added another title to his resume. The president of Flavor, Inc., and co-owner of Spark Plaza has authored his first book, “Make Your Mark,” which launches Sept. 30.

“Make Your Mark” is an interactive children’s book set in Johnson City that features a young girl, an artist, and a wall. All three help tell the story of four often unheralded individuals who made their mark on the city.

“The book is about making your mark in this world,” said Castillo, “and it’s about finding out how you fit into the broader story. It combines a lot of things I’m passionate about, namely art and history. Art, because I come from a family of artists. My grandparents met at an artist’s coworking space in Mexico City and my dad, Joe Castillo, has performed all over the world as an artist. I’ve always been around artists and art – it’s what I know, it’s how I grew up.”

“And I love history and stories. Johnson City has amazing stories about its downtown, and there are a lot of people over the years who have made their mark here – most of them unsung heroes. So, it’s about not just the little girl’s place in the world; it’s about people who have come before her who have made their mark on Johnson City.”

Colonel LeRoy Reeves, a Johnson City attorney who designed the Tennessee state flag, is one of the unsung heroes featured in the book, along with Dr. Hezekiah Hankal. He was a teacher and pastor who, in 1887, became the first African American elected official in Johnson City.

Also featured is “Blind” Lemon Jefferson, known as the “Father of the Texas Blues,” a blues and gospel musician who performed in Johnson City in the 1920s, along with Eliza Shaut White, who helped women earn the right to vote in Tennessee.

The idea for the book came about in 2020 when COVID-19 resulted in the “loss of about 70 percent” of Castillo’s business.

“I lost business, and I had time on my hands,” said Castillo. “I had always wanted to write a book, and I thought a children’s book might be perfect because it might be easier. It was actually harder, but it was an amazing process, and I’m so glad I did it.”

Castillo’s goal with the self-published book is three-fold.

“First, I hope that kids will understand that they can do anything they set their minds to, that they are going to make their mark as much as people that they think are famous,” said Castillo. “Second, it’s interactive, and I want kids to put paintbrush to paper, or draw, scribble, or doodle and just create. And third, I wanted to tell the story of some of the heroes of this city and region – people who made their mark but have kind of been forgotten.”

The artist in “Make Your Mark” is based on Castillo’s dad, while some of the little girl’s characteristics mirror those of his daughters, Sophia and Olivia.

“The artist is definitely my dad,” said Castillo. “He was meant to look like him – he’s wearing a beret, glasses, a vest with paint splotches on it, and he has a goatee, just like my dad. And the little girl’s child-like curiosity and pigtails; those are things based on my daughters.”

Castillo stresses that the book would not have been possible without Parker Bunch’s brilliant illustrations and the masterful editing skills of Barbara Gemar.

“I simply wouldn’t have been able to do it without those two,” said Castillo. “Parker, who graduated from ETSU, just knocked it out of the park with his incredible illustrations, and Barbara, who has published many books and is a teacher here in Johnson City, is just so kind and gracious. She guided me through the entire writing process and was a fantastic editor.”

“Honestly, this book was just a team effort. It would not have happened without my wife and partner, Shannon, nudging me to do it. And my kids were an inspiration, as were my dad, my grandparents, and plenty of other family members. It’s just so hard to publish a book, let alone self-publish one. It was all brand new to me, so I just have to say a huge thank you everybody who made it possible.”

“Make Your Mark” is already available on Amazon. The official launch party for the book is slated for Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. at Reclaimed Inspired Goods, located in Downtown Johnson City. Reclaimed Inspired Goods, which will feature activities for children at the launch, will be the exclusive seller of the book in the downtown area.

Proceeds from the launch party will benefit Johnson City Public Art and art for kids. For more information about “Make Your Mark,” please visit or email flavor -at-